Horror Fiction Coming of Age

  When they found the little girl out in the forest, alone, poorly dressed against the cold, how could they do anything but invite her into their home? Heartbroken though they were, searching for the own lost children, they did not expect to find one who had not come from their flock. They fed her, bathed her, even made a bed for her to sleep in.

She did not speak at first. Only stared out at the world through huge and frightened eyes. When they asked her questions, she would only nod or shake her head, anything more complicated was met with only stares, and blankness.

               They adopted her eventually, one of the few remaining children left in the tiny village after the tragedy. So many left without their children looked at her as the miracle child, the one that survived when so many others had gone. They mourned their own children and I sipped of their anguish.

               The truth is there was never a little girl, only me, in my small form, at the beginning of the cycle.

When I awoke in the heart of my Tree, I stretched, yawned and found myself small and ineffectual. Now was the time for cleverness not strength, strength would be needed later. Together, My Tree and I sent out the summons, the scent, the lure.

               They came by ones, and two, walking into the cold night as though in a trance, and when they arrived, I would usher them into the hollow, where My Tree would take care of the rest. Her branches are sharp, her heart spikes sharper. When she was done her feasting I would spread the remains among her roots, until she sat happy, full and ready to grow. It would take years for her to be ready and I was in no hurry. We would do it right this time, I told her, as I stroked her rough brown bark.

               After the feast I allowed them to see me, take me back in the place of their own missing children. Little did they know that they had invited their own death among them.

               Seven were taken, and for seven years My Tree and I grew together. We grew tall and willowy and strong, but as the innocence dwindled away so did my disguise. The village had been declining since the loss of the children and now few residents were left, the old, infirm, the ones with nowhere else to go. It was time, I decided for phase two.

               Before the sun set on the seventh night of the seventh month, I walked from house to house, bringing sweet cakes and tea. Early had I established this pattern of monthly gifts, a left over from the days I had been a child. They thought I was being kind but how else to drug the lot of them?

               When all was quiet, I stood naked in the moonlight, with one sharp fingernail I made a cut along my side, reached inside the wound, and grasped at my rib. I pulled, the agony tearing through me like fire across a dry prairie. Excruciating bliss. It came loose with a crack and suddenly it was there in my hands, sharps and brown and as beautifully textured as any limb of My Tree. The dragger could not be made any other way.

               One by one I dragged the remaining villagers from their warm beds out into the dark forest, to my tree. One by one, she feasted until the town was silent and empty. I climbed inside the hollow, felt My tree’s satisfaction, as she became full and sated, lazy and sleepy in her new task of digestion.

She never saw it coming.

 My Tree did not expect me to take something so precious from her now that she had grown so large and strong. The love we shared blinded her to my true purpose and she screamed her leafy scream as I drew the dagger inside of her. I had always known the price, even if she had not. Strong as she was, it was in my form that we evolved together and without humans to feed us we could not do what must be done. Their lives made us stronger, gave us power and wisdom and sustenance. And so to save us both I cut out her soul.

            Her soul throbbed in the shape of a great knot of wood. It took little time to cut it free, only my bone dagger sharp enough to perform the surgery that would save us both in the end. I felt her surge with power as she tried to protect herself, but it was too late. She raged around me, but I was too quick for her deadly branches to reach me. I knew if I did not do this, we would both die, perhaps not the way the people I sacrificed to her died but it would be a kind of death, and it would cost the world so much more than it knew. If that were to happen…I shuddered at the very thought of it. 

              Once the knot was free, I wrapped it in cloth and held it close to my body. Quickly I sprang from the hollow and ran as quickly as I could away from the agony that had spread through us both the instant the blade began to cut.

           Pain, deep, soul splitting pain, nearly drove me to my knees but I had to keep moving. While she was able to consume the flesh and begin to heal, I was cut off now and had to heal on my own giving strength to the soul instead of being nurtured by it. Reaching into the cloth, my hand gently clasping the wooden treasure within, I could feel the small life inside it, reaching, reaching towards something more. I had to get her somewhere safe and quickly.

           With an uttered ancient word, I called the wolves to me. They had ever been the servants of the Tree folk. The largest approached, whining slightly and unwilling to look me in the eye. This was fine by me. The last thing I wanted was for him to know how weak I felt at that moment. He stepped towards me and allowed me to climb onto his back.    

We soared through the forest then through fields, soared past small towns and large and finally when the exhaustion took us both, we melted into the earth to rest.

My Tree in the heart of the forest bellowed in anger as the wound closed and she was left soulless. She would be angry I knew but she would not die. She would slowly find peace and begin the slumber as so many of her sisters before her. She would sleep until the time of Awakening. When all her sisters, all of my Trees would awaken in one glorious moment and be reunited with the soul of us all.

On that fateful, terrible day the earth will be ours once more.

June 03, 2021 13:53

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.